Group from Bogalusa checks box on ‘bucket list’

Published 8:37 am Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Seven Bogalusa residents reached new heights recently.

David Crain, Carlton Knight, Will Arata, Tyler Jenkins, Matt Simmons, Devin Milner and Bill Arata all had their first experience of skydiving.

The group did tandem jumps with their instructors from 14,000 feet up in Lumberton, Miss., with Gold Coast Skydiving.

Those who went on the trip had to dig deep into their vocabularies to find the right words to describe the experience.

“I guess the best way to describe it is euphoric,” Bill Arata said. “Then it occurs to you that you’re going 120 miles an hour. Then you enjoy it. It’s a ride. It’s a ride in four stages. They use this twin-engine plane, an otter. You’re sitting backwards looking out of the window. Then you get out of the plane. There’s the falling, there’s the parachute and then there’s the landing. The part I was most apprehensive about was the landing but that was soft as a feather.”

Arata said there’s nothing like it.

“My son Will and I decided a few years ago to create a bucket list to eliminate as many regrets in this life we can,” Arata said. “Last year, we became certified scuba divers. This year, it’s skydiving, and at some point, we plan on motor biking the Alaska Highway.”

Arata said he and his son are not adrenaline junkies. They just don’t want to have any regrets in this lifetime.

Arata said he wasn’t nervous at all.

“We were committed to doing this. If you watch my YouTube video there’s a smile on my face the whole time,” Arata said.

You can see Arata’s YouTube video by visiting and typing Bill Arata in the search box.

Bill’s oldest son, Will, who is a senior at Pope John Paul II, was celebrating his 18th birthday on the day of the dive.

He said he was super excited about it.

“It was really fun,” Will Arata said. “When I was about to go out by the hangar door, and then I rolled out, it was a major adrenaline rush.”

He said it’s definitely not what he expected.

“It was a totally different feeling. Looking down and falling, all you can see is the ground, and you’re going fast. It was a great feeling, exhilarating definitely.”

Like his father, Will said the landing was soft.

“I think I had best landing out of the whole group. It was just really soft,” Will Arata said.

Milner, a 2013 Franklinton High School graduate, had never flown before the outing.

He said his first flight was great.

“I enjoyed it,” Milner said. “Leading up to it was probably the most nerve-racking thing. When we got there, we had about an hour wait, so that kind of took the nervousness out of it.”

Milner said the skydive itself was an amazing feeling.

“They took us up to 14,000 feet,” Milner said. “You free fall for about 60 seconds, but it’s like you’re floating, not really falling. You feel like you’re free. You have no worries. You can’t hear anything. This is why we’re going back in June, to experience this again.”

Like the Aratas, Milner also had a good landing.

Milner said the skydiving was a bucket list thing for him, too.

“I’ve got a group of close friends,” Milner said. “You live just one life, and we want to have as much fun in this life as we can. You get up. You go. You don’t stop.”

Milner said they had about a week to prepare themselves.

“It was a last minute thing. We were hyped about it. We were telling everybody about it. The days felt like it was the longest days of our lives. Finally the day came, and it was raining. When we got there, the skies lit up. We could see for miles when we jumped. It was a perfect day to jump. Sun was out and blue skies,” Milner said.